Who’s Identity is it Anyway??

Infograph by 16Wins.com

Okay, so the Winnipeg Jets are paying homage to the WHA’s Jets for their blue Heritage Classic. Kind of a cop-out to just change the color of the jerseys from 2016 and not really pay heritage to say the Falcons that won an Olympic gold, but whatever sells merch, right??

But it brings up an interesting point about the lineage of hockey. Twitter pal Mitch brings up a good point in that– doesn’t all the original Jets’ identity– including the WHA– belong to the Coyotes?? I mean, the Jets as we know them now started off as the Atlanta Thrashers and as far as I know ( I found out in research of this– the Thrashers name and logo are still owned by the people in Atlanta for some ungodly reason); it’s not like the Cleveland Browns in that when they left for Baltimore they got a settlement to keep the original Cleveland Browns stats and history, leaving the Ravens with a clean sheet.

Yet, it also goes to show how little teams care about their actual lineage. The Coyotes used to do a lot of things with Winnipeg Jets’ legends and legacy, but they rarely do that anymore with a new Winnipeg Jets in the league. The Avalanche left all of the Nordiques’ records and such in Quebec City, while the Devils sometimes give a nod to the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies through Easter Eggs in their jersey– but it’s nothing outward. The Hurricanes are finally starting to rekindle their heritage with their Whalers’ nights– which is a nice thing to see.

So, who owns the rights to teams identities when they leave for another market?? The Coyotes have Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, and Thomas Steen’s jerseys retired; so they must own the records, right?? Rick Ley and John McKenzie’s numbers have been used by the Hurricanes (which Jack Edwards will let you know about), though the #2 of Ley is retired under Glen Wesley’s name.

To the victors go the spoils and they can do with it what they want. The sad fact is that most teams don’t utilize this enough. People clamor for nostalgia, people want the merch that comes with those old gaudy logos and jerseys (read: St. Louis Blues’ new throwback/alternative), and if you’re going to know where you’re going as a hockey fans– you’ve got to know where you’ve been. Not enough teams realize that with their old guards moving forward into the next realm of being, their stories and history goes with them if it’s not properly preserved or used. It’ll be a faded memory of another time.

While the Surviving….errr….”Original” Six teams do a decent job at honoring them– it needs to be more widespread through the league. While it’s great to make new memories and great that we’re seeing probably the best caliber of players in the history of the game…it’s best not to forget those that were before it– whether it was great or not. More over, teams need to remember where they came from– not in a get-famous-and-forget-your-roots movie tropes; but literally need to hash out where their heritage lies. If they moved and they’re not going to recognize where they moved from– give those records back to the NHL or the city they came from and move on. If they’re going to use that history of where they moved from– then use it and don’t let it rot.

Though, I will say I haven’t seen an area be this hungry for their former glory that Winnipeg and the Jets. I don’t remember this kind of uproar about the Minnesota Wild coming back and the fans wanting the North Stars records and logos and such. That either makes them really hardcore or just overly fanatical.

It Should Have Been the Battle of Atlanta

Though I know it was a long-shot because it would have been funny, the NHL Media website pretty much shuts down the official idea of having the Battle of Atlanta, as they revealed the logos for the Heritage Classic in an email for accreditation. The logos of the Jets looks like one they had for the Heritage Classic in 2016, while the Flames look like a take of their original uniforms as the moved from Atlanta. Of course, we got a hint of what the Jets were doing when Connor Hellebuyck donned a retro mask for pre-training camp in Winnipeg.

What could have been with the Atlanta Thrashers and Atlanta Flames coming back to life again in, of all places, Regina, Saskatchewan.

While we won’t know the actual Jets uniforms until September 13th when they’ll officially unveil their duds for the event, you look at the Jets jersey history– even with the original team; the pickings are very slim. When you look at the Flames, who have yet to set a date for their jersey reveal, the pickings are as slim– though plenty gaudy. Hell, the Flames needed to make up a jersey for their outdoor game in 2011 from a Calgary team few knew about.

Thus is the issue with teams that are in these games and want to do something special for their jerseys– but have a limited palette to choose from when it comes time. The Blackhawks ran out of idea, the Canadiens only have limited options, as do many of the “Original” Six teams. Then you have teams that don’t have a lot of old jerseys– like the Jets, Flames, and Capitals– and have to model some kind of faux-retro to go along with the idea of the game. Which is what’s going to make the Winter Classic jerseys interesting with Dallas and Nashville not being known for their jersey history.

Part of that is the reason why I suggested it becoming the Battle of Atlanta. I mean, sure– it helps that both teams defected from Georgia to move to Canada, but at the same time– it’d be a different jersey take than we may have expected. Plus, it would annoy Canadians who believe they are gatekeepers to hockey and all that it means to people. Plus, it’s about fun, right?? What’s more fun than to bring back two old teams and their jerseys for a night?? People want all kinds of old jerseys back– so here’s a perfect chance to do it.

But the NHL botched it. The teams botched. Now, we have to be subjected to recycled jersey concepts and act like we are happy about seeing something we’ve seen before– like the Blackhawks in an outdoor game.

Hockey Blowhard Creates Fake Controversy of Hockey Star in Major Market

Leave it to Brian Burke angling for Don Cherry’s seat to create a controversy no one knew they needed.

Burke said on Toronto’s Fan590 that he’s confident that Auston Matthews will leave the Maple Leafs FIVE YEARS FROM NOW WHEN HIS CONTRACT IS UP. The fact that Burke is talking about this situation is peak Toronto sports fear mongering. Hell, the Leafs should be more worried about trying to get Mitch Marner signed than having to deal with these kinds of questions and “what-if” scenarios that a former executive has to say.

Yet, so it goes for this hockey media culture at this time. Clickbait titles, super-hot takes, wild future state scenarios all in vain to get eyes and ears onto their product. It’s a fast-paced world with a lot of content and something like this gets people to stop scrolling and read– which helps ad revenue, creates totally level-headed discussion about it on social media, and gets writers/hosts/whomever high praise from some and cyberbullying from others.

(For the record– I enjoy this kind of chaos, especially with a fan-base like the Leafs. This is second only to the whole Connor McDavid wanting to leave the Edmonton Oilers trope that has been out there in the past– which always triggers the Oilers fan-base. Also, in both cases I could see it being plausible– with Matthews and the Leafs going to need to a lot of more cap space to fit Matthews, Tavares, and maybe Marner or whatever other wunderkind they have signed to a huge deal. That could mean Matthews would get a better offer in the better spot elsewhere. When it comes to McDavid– it’s really all about the team around him that could make him want to stay or leave Edmonton, which maybe Ken Holland can fix in the short time he has to work with. That said, McDavid still has seven years on his deal and has no modifiers on his contract– which could be fun and interesting though nothing will happen and he’ll play it out because he’s a good Canadian boy.)

Back to the matter at hand– the way the Burke presented this and how people picked up on it is why hockey fans get aggravated about how the media puts things out there. It creates a buzz at first, but then they realize it’s just bullshit. Plus, a lot of these click-bait titles provide no detail in the meat of the story– TSN’s Bardown is very notorious for that whole thing where they put a click-baity title and there’s nothing in the actual article pertaining to the title; but it gets views and revenue so why not, huh??

At the end of the day, this is the way hockey (and really most of the) media goes these days– buzzworthy titles of articles with no real substance in said article, talking heads just saying anything to get people to listen to them and create fake debate, all the while– fans are going to believe what fits to their own personal beliefs about the players or teams regardless of what anyone is logically saying in the reality of the situation.

On the Topic Of Jersey Sales

The bane of existence for the sports merchandising industry– Fanatics— put out the highest selling jerseys for the 2018-19 season. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise when you look at who’s at the top of the list, but there are a couple of interesting trends when you look deeper into the whole thing.

Compared to last season, there’s some shuffling: Sidney Crosby went from second to first, Alex Ovechkin vaulted from sixth to second, while Auston Matthews fell from first to third. M-A Fleury held steady at fourth, while Henrik Lundqvist left the top-15 altogether. Connor McDavid went from fourth to 10th with playoff darling Jordan Binnington jumping up to the seventh spot on the year.

Now, Fanatics doesn’t break things down– which I’m shocked at since their apparel breaks down very quickly. There’s not a date range for it all if it’s the actual season or if it includes playoffs. One can assume that people rebought jerseys because the Fanatics stitching is horrific at best. Plus, it doesn’t mention if this is just Fanatics brand or if it includes Adidas authentic. Nor does it mention the sale of alternate jerseys at all– just the players.

The alternates are something to really put the Crosby clan over the top with the alternate yellow and Stadium Series black the Pens had this season, on top of the ASG jerseys that probably should have boosted more players on this list.

In any case, it’s always odd to me that the same players keep ending up on the top players list for jerseys. You’d think that it’d be a little more interchangeable with the amount of hot rookies that come through. The hype on them alone should drive sales. But, again, if Fanatics is only going on their personal sales– arena sales won’t count, nor will local shops. We’ll have to see if the Jack Hughes Effect will put a Devils’ jersey on the list next season.

Better Know An Affiliate: Los Angeles Kings

AHL: Ontario Reign (25-33-6-4, 7th in Pacific, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Reign were born out of the initial western swing, as the Kings moved the Manchester Monarchs to Ontario after 14 years. Prior to that, the Lowell Lock Monsters were at the helm, which came after the Springfield Falcons– the fourth time the Kings had an affiliate in Springfield with the Kings and Indians being the other teams. Two of the Kings longest affiliations intersected with the Phoenix Roadrunners and New Haven Nighthawks for a few seasons in the early ’90s. And I’d be foolish not to mention the Long Beach Ice Dogs for three years in the late ’90s.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: Despite an injury that kept him out all but four games last season, Gabriel Vilardi will be on the trek from Ontario to LA, especially given the depth of the center spot in LA. Also, don’t be surprised if Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen swap spots back and forth backing up Jonathan Quick.

ECHL: Unfortunately, the Kings’ secondary affiliate in Manchester had to close down shop after this past season due to declining attendance after their move from the AHL to the ECHL. Other secondary includes the Ontario Reign, Reading Royals, Trenton Titans, Mississippi SeaWolves, and Richmond Renegades.

Better Known An Affiliate: Florida Panthers

AHL: Springfield Thunderbirds (33-29-9-5, 7th in Atlantic, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Thunderbirds moved to Springfield from Portland, where the Panthers had a one-year affiliation with the Panthers. Prior to that, the Panthers were matches with the San Antonio Rampage for five years, after a six year stint with the Rochester Americans. The Louisville Panthers, Kentucky Thoroughblades, New Haven Beast, Carolina Monarchs, and the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones also served as primary sponsor of the Panthers.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: One possible candidate could be a guy who’s coming over for his first North American pro season and that’s Aleksi Heponiemi. After a stellar WHL career with Swift Current, Heponiemi went to Finland to register almost a point-per-game in 50 games, while leading his team in assists with 30. Also look for Anthony Greco and Dryden Hunt to be on the shuttle up and down the east coast as both looked to build on their time with the Panthers from last season, while trying to fit into a tight roster.

ECHL: The Panthers haven’t had a secondary affiliate since 2015 when they left the Cincinnati Cyclones. They had a closer affiliate in the Florida Everblades for four seasons over five years (one year break in the middle), while the Texas Wildcatters, Augusta Lynx, again with Florida, and the Miami Matadors all had one-year stints as the secondary team for the Panthers. The Port Huron Border Cats of the UHL, the Tallahasse Tiger Sharks of the ECHL, the Detroit Falcons of the UHL, and the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL were at the start of the Panthers franchise.

Better Know An Affiliate: Edmonton Oilers

AHL: Bakersfield Condors (42-21-3-2, 1st in Pacific, lost in second round)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Condors sprung through the ashes of the Oklahoma City Barons during the AHL exodus to the west coast. Prior to that, it was an odd time for the Oilers prospects, as they hit up stops with the Springfield Falcons, Iowa Stars, Hamilton Bulldogs, Edmonton and Toronto Roadrunners, and then back with Hamilton. Though they had the IHL’s Kansas City Blades for a season, they had a strong hold on the Maritimes in Canada with the Cape Breton Oilers, Nova Scotia Oilers, and Moncton Alpines from 1982 until 1996.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: There’s some flux on the wings, which would leave things open of Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Benson. Yamamoto is a work in progress and his season last year wasn’t the greatest– which gives Benson an edge, as he was just under a point-per-game player last season with 66 points in 68 games. Caleb Jones could be the best shot on the blue line to be a shuttle player, while centerman Cooper Marody put up 64 points in 58 games with the Condors in his rookie season.

ECHL: Wichita Thunder (29-31-9-3, 5th in Mountain, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Thunder got the Oilers affiliation after the Oilers left the Norfolk Admirals, the team that was the former ECHL Condors that the Oilers bought and moved to Virginia to make room for the AHL. The Stockton Thunder was prior to all three of those teams, with the Oilers also making stops with the Greenville Grrrowl, Columbus Cottonmouths, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, New Orleans Brass, and the Winston-Salem/Wheeling Thunderbirds/Nailers. The IHL was the secondary affiliate for the Oilers from 1979 until 1991 with stops with the Dayton Gems, Milwaukee Admirals, Muskegon Lumberjacks, and Phoenix Roadrunners.
NOTABLE GRADUATES: There hasn’t been many graduates from the Thunder…in fact, none that I can see that spent significant time in Wichita. However, former NHLers like Dana Tyrell and Theo Peckham have played in Wichita looking to get another shot at the big time; which didn’t appear to happen in either case.

Better Know An Affiliate: Detroit Red Wings

AHL: Grand Rapids Griffins (38-27-7-4, 4th in Central, lost in first round)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Griffins have been the Red Wings’ affiliate for 17 years now, which is the second longest in Red Wings history– the first being the Adirondack Red Wings from 1979 until 1999. Oddly enough, between that 1999-2002 time, the Red Wings shared affiliation with other teams in the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and Manitoba Moose. Prior to that– it was all over the place like the Kansas City Red Wings, Kansas City Blues, Tidewater Wings, Viriginia Wings, Baltimore Clippers, London (UK) Lions, San Diego Gulls, and Cleveland Barons to name a very few.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Red Wings are very cautious with their prospects, but with a new GM in Steve Yzerman and a rebuild happening; maybe some of these guys will get moved up quicker. Filip Zadina could make the team out of camp, but if not– he will be the first call-up for any injury. Though he missed last season due to injury, Evgeny Svechnikov has some high upside to him, which may make him a desirable mark to shuttle to and from Detroit. The dark horse blue liner could be Vili Saarijarvi, who has taken a while to develop through the system and may get some looks this season.

ECHL: Toledo Walleye (40-23-6-3, 2nd in Central, lost in Kelly Cup final)
TEAM LINEAGE: It’ll be the 10th season of affiliation for the Walleye and Red Wings, which the Red Wings third time in the Toledo market, as they had the Storm as a secondary affiliate from 1991 until 1999 and then in 2000 until 2007. There were also stops with the Louisiana IceGators, Jacksonville Bullets, Detroit Falcons, Flint Spirits, and Johnstown Wings to name some of their stops.
NOTABLE GRADUATES: Among the graduates many would know, Luke Glendening was one of the bigger names to move onward, as is Petr Mrazek. Brian Lashoff and Tom McCollum also toiled through the system to get to the pros from Toledo, while players like TJ Hensick have used Toledo as a place to play at the sunset of their career.

Better Know An Affiliate: Dallas Stars

AHL: Texas Stars (37-31-4-4, 6th in Central, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs)
TEAM LINEAGE: It’s been ten years since the Dallas Stars moved their AHL team to the Lone Star State to be much closer to the parents. Before then, they went to Iowa for three seasons after a split affiliation with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Houston Aeros. Prior to that, the AHL edition of the Utah Grizzlies were the affiliate after they had their last year in the IHL. The Stars were all about the IHL, as Utah were preceded by Michigan K-Wings/Kalamazoo Wings.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Stars are jam-packed on the blueline, which might give them plenty of flexibility for bringing guys up to show off for trade purposes. That means the sighting of Julius Honka or Gavin Bayreuther to see if they can hang with the big club or maybe show off enough to get dealt out of the system, though the former could be dealt due to the cap number game.

ECHL: Idaho Steelheads (41-25-4-2, 2nd in Mountain, lost in second round)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Steelheads have been with the Stars since 2003 (minus the 2004-05 season) and only prior to that, the Dayton Bombers were the secondary affiliate from 1993 until 2000. During the Steelheads tenure, the Stars also went to the CHL for affiliation with the Tulsa Oilers and Allen Americans.
NOTABLE GRADUATES: Some graduates include Richard Clune, BJ Crombeen, Justin Dowling, and Jay Beagle– who used his short time with the Steelheads to kick-start his championship run of the Kelly Cup, Calder Cup, and Stanley Cup.

Wild Think Outside the Box with Guerin

Please to be welcoming Bill Guerin as the new GM of the Minnesota Wild. Finally, someone who is not part of the rinse-wash-repeat cycle of coaches and GMs over the past eternity of the National Hockey League. More over than this is the fact that Guerin really has no ties to Minnesota at all and a very limited amount of time in a higher management role…which is why the fans and ownership of the Wild should be patient with Guerin’s process.

Guerin is coming into the Wild with a lot of money on the books with a lot of term left on the hefty contracts– including Mats Zuccarello’s new contract that was Paul Fenton’s last. In all honesty, the fruits of Guerin’s labor won’t be a quick turnaround and shouldn’t be seen as such either. He’s had a keen role in Pittsburgh’s two Cup runs as the assistant GM, while also trying to build up the younger players when he was in his player development role.

With a solid young core– like Ryan Donato, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Jordan Greenway, and Luke Kunin– there’s plenty to build off of and could create a helluva battle for a roster spot going into training camp. The youth needs to be served, as the Wild are the third oldest team in the league (29.3 years) and may need a shot in the arm from the younger players to get the team back on the playoff track.

That brings up what’s going to happen with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. Many times, the GMs like to put their own people in the coaching spot and with one more year on Boudreau’s deal— he could pretty much be a lame duck coach this year and any kind of slip early in the season could see him moved along quicker than many may expect.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is new blood into the GM pool, though many may wonder why a guy with no experience and no direct ties to the area or organization would be put in that spot. Well, it’s simple– it’s something new. It’ll scare some people, sure, but at the same time– a fresh look is something that some teams (and in this case, the Wild ESPECIALLY) need moving forward.

It’s all about being patient. Most fans and team owners don’t know what that is anymore and are always in the “win now” kind of mindset. That’s fine for the start of it, but if there’s huge problems and the “win now” is not happening– it’s a good idea to step back, bring a fresher face into the fold, and let things happen as they will. Granted, Fenton was a fresh face from outside the organization with a solid reputation in the league for his role in Nashville and that turned out like garbage…but second time’s a charm, right??

While it might be a bit of a risk– it’s much better to go with this new face and see what they can do, than to hire the same old horses that were put out to pasture elsewhere and hope their kind of style fits in with the team.